Horror fans are often a fickle bunch especially when it comes viewing one of their favorite director’s films, they want to like the new one but can be disappointed when it doesn’t live up to the hype of previous work of theirs. Look it’s very hard to capture lightening in a bottle twice, yes its possible but highly rare, nearly impossible to repeatedly accomplish it, well aside from Alfred Hitchcock; however this is about John Carpenter everyone knows of his resume, face it Halloween (1978) and The Thing (1982) two of his finest, but if one always listen to others about other works, you’ll never learn what you like or prefer, which brings us to The Fog, a film some dismiss it as unpredictable, it flows along randomly, I’m sorry if you seek a formulaic movie, this is a fair ghostly tale. John used personal influence to create the story, first The Crawling Eye (1958) which dealt with monsters hiding in the clouds and fog, think The Mist (2007) if you never heard of that movie, and while on a trip with co-writer and producer Debra Hill the ancient stories of Stonehenge; plus the inclusion both Poe and H.P. Lovecraft all makes for a wondrous combination. Since its release by AVCO Embassy Pictures it developed a cult following, perhaps with the inclusion of Jamie Lee Curtis starring alongside her real-life mother Janet Leigh, which must’ve been a huge thrill for Carpenter; in addition sadly a lame remake followed in 2005.
The movie opens with quote attributed to Edgar Allen Poe, and then starts on April 20, at 11:55pm featuring children gathered around a campfire with an old captain named Mr. Machen (John Houseman (Ghost Story )), eerily telling a story about a shipwreck that occurred off the rocky coast of Antonio Bay, California, that killed the entire crew of the Elizabeth Dane, though they were murdered 100-years ago, as the bell tolls midnight, the anniversary of the town’s founding descends on them all. The setting and style well-filmed, opening a solid tone for the children and the viewers drawn, with the waves crashing in the background which gives a nice undertone to the tale. Shortly afterwards, early that morning a young woman Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis (Knives Out )) was hitchhiking whose first name is the same of the ship that sunk gets picked by fisherman Nick Castle (Tom Atkins (Trick )); at sets in motion a weird series events. These include killing some other fishermen at sea, and smashed windows, bells ringing, however Nick takes Elizabeth home to seduce her into his bed, lucky guy. Later the next day Father Malone (Hal Holbrook (Creepshow )), who knows the secrets of the town, after discovering a town ledger in the wall of his church and a large gold cross, who sounds as a doomsayer warning the celebration committee leader Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh (Psycho )) and her assistant Sandy (Nancy Loomis (Halloween )), not go through with the ceremony tonight. Meanwhile, KAB jazz station disc jockey Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau (Hoax )) stationed at the lighthouse is aware of the Fog’s ominous glow and later becomes the town’s beacon for warning about the impending doom, her son Andy plays a minor part in the film. As the ghosts, they are led by Captain Blake (Rob Bottin), who has his own secrets as well glowing red eyes, its truly confusing what they actually are they ghosts or waterlogged zombies, you all need to choose for yourselves. Yes, it is correct I’m omitting certain details for those that haven’t the film or not in some time, no reason to give away on the details.
As previously mentioned, some viewers wanted a formulaic movie, well I suppose I should be honest it does follow the path of another horror movie, part-way, entitled The Birds (1963) directed by Alfred Hitchcock. If you recall the Castle character mentions the town of Bodega Bay, same name used in The birds movie, and shortly after Tippi Hendren’s arrival all the problems start occurring, very similar to Curtis’ entry into the film. Oh, by the way, did you all catch the reference to Vincent Price, unsure where the coroner’s name Dr. Phibes portrayed by Darwin Joston, if know your horror that’s lead character in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971). Realizing the running time was coming in shorter than expected Carpenter needed to add scenes to expand it to the customary 85 to 90-minute threshold for the horror genre, hence a spooky ghost story held on the beach, with Houseman who only worked on the set for one day, due to budget constraints gave a very nice start to film. Cinematographer Dean Cundey (The Witch Who came from the Sea [1976) and previously worked with John thereby knew his style, gave many rich developing scenes, added by some mundane special effects which sadly haven’t age well for this movie now in 2020.
Carpenter shows his ability to work with a low budget and still make a scary movie though some wished for a better villain, I think fans became very spoiled from Halloween and Michael Myers. Perhaps many seek a better explanation of why the ghostly crew isn’t solely stalking down the ancestors of towns founding members, it’s a good and fair question. A reason could be that everyone is responsible for the actions of their founding fathers, for when the bell tolls it tolls for all, the town and community hold a responsibility for their sins. In any manner, it is a fine flick and the close out scene in the church is a very nice touch, along with Carpenter’s skillful score, available on vinyl from Waxwork Records and Blake’s figurine, among the collectors’ items.
- John Carpenter’s tale of vengeance beyond the grave…
- 100 years ago, it moved across a small town creating a terror no human being should ever live to see again! Now, it has returned.
- What you can’t see won’t hurt you… it’ll kill you!
- Lock your doors. Bolt your windows. There’s something in The Fog!
- When the fog rolls in… the terror begins!
- It is night. It is cold. It is coming.
- John Carpenter, who startled the world with “Halloween”, now brings you the ultimate experience in terror.
IMDb rating: 6.8/10
Baron’s Rating: 7.0/10